The Importance of Prioritizing Employee Health

For a company to thrive, it must have a healthy workforce. When employees know that their employer has their best interests at heart, they will feel more motivated to do their part and help their company succeed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the health of your employees is even more imperative today than ever before.

 

Employee health is more than avoiding slips and falls. It means having policies in place that encourage a healthy body and mind, and your human resources team can provide that support. Let’s look at the benefits of employee health and how to get the desired results.

Healthy Employees are Productive Employees

Prioritizing employee health is important not only because folks should feel secure coming to work each day, but also because healthy employees are also productive employees. In general, the happier the employee, the more motivated they will be, and that goes for companies of all types. Even industries as diverse as shipping and trucking are utilizing driver scorecards to view attributes like excessive braking and speeding, and the drivers use this information to try to improve their performance so they drive more efficiently. This change also saves the company money on fuel costs and reduces employee stress.   

 

There are many initiatives that you can make around the office to promote health and productivity. One of them is offering healthy food choices in the break and lunchrooms. In general, employees who eat better often have more energy and improved concentration throughout the day. Not to mention that healthy employees will also call out sick less often.

 

Then there are the positive results associated with exercising in the morning or during lunch. According to studies, those who exercise at least three days per week are 15% more likely to have increased job performance. Consider implementing a wellness program that includes nutrition education, exercise programs, and information for weight loss systems that the employees can access freely.

Don’t Forget Mental Health

While physical dangers are always lurking, it is essential to not forget the mental health of your employees. You want your workers to enjoy coming to work, so they don’t look for a job elsewhere. More importantly, employees who feel that they are treated unfairly, even to the point of discrimination, can sue your workplace and tarnish your public image.

 

Poor mental health can manifest itself in many ways. Some employees may feel sad or lonely while they are at work, which can happen if they feel that they are just cogs in the machine without that human interaction that we all require to thrive. Lonely employees also impact your business as those who are truly unhappy generally call out sick twice as often as happier employees. To encourage a sense of community, consider hosting team-building exercises in the office, or even engage in a larger project like volunteering at a soup kitchen to really enforce that this office is also a family.

 

Human Resources should have an open-door policy and encourage employees to come to them when they are feeling mentally drained. When they do, offer information based on their needs, especially if your company does not offer a health insurance program, or your employees don’t qualify for one. For instance, employees with Medicare may have access to medication or psychiatry appointments that can help them get back on the right track. To all employees, you can also recommend tech solutions like smartphone apps that can help mitigate stress and provide breathing exercises when things are getting a little hard to handle.

Safety During COVID-19

Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, which is the novel coronavirus, and how businesses must adapt to keep their employees from getting infected. First, be open with your employees and tell them to go to HR if they feel that they are getting sick so they can be sent home until they get better. Temperature screenings at all entrances will not only give you an indicator that someone is ill but will also give other employees the sense that their employer cares about their health.

 

On top of that, companies should follow CDC guidelines as they apply to limiting exposure to COVID-19. Social distancing protocols are heavily favored by the CDC with the recommendation to keep people six feet apart. If you have an office with a cubicle layout, your employees may already be separated. However, if you work in a warehouse or overcrowded office where people are generally on top of each other, then you may have to consider making new work shifts where employees come at different times to avoid overcrowding.

 

Also, make an effort to provide the clean and sanitized atmosphere that you and your employers deserve. This may involve hiring a larger cleaning crew that can come in each night and sanitize all desks and refill all soap and hand sanitizer stations, so employees are always able to stay as germ-free as possible. If you have a good employee that just doesn’t feel safe coming to the office, consider the possibility of remote work as a potential solution. 

 

Since our employees are what keeps our businesses going strong, we must keep them as the top priority. Implement some easy safety strategies today, and you could have happier employees tomorrow. 

Ideas for Organizing Team Building Activities

As many experienced HR managers already know, when you have a team that works well together, you also have a team that’s more effective and productive. On the other hand, such teams don’t simply fall from the sky – HR managers work hard to make it happen. For some employees, hearing the words “team building” instantly makes them develop migraines from rolling their eyes over. This is because, even though they should be, not many team building activities are actually fun. We’ve helped put together a few ideas that will help you organize fun and exciting team building activities that employees will enjoy.

Paper plane competition

If you’d like to help your team work better together, throw a small competition in. You can organize a paper plane race, but everyone has to build their own. Luckily, all you need to have is an empty hallway, a bit of tape that you are going to use to mark the launch line, and a measuring stick (or a measuring tape). Alternatively, you can play it outside when it’s not too windy. The trick is to give each team a piece of card stock that they will have to use to build their paper place, and to help them out a bit, make sure to show them several different airplane designs they can try to replicate. The team that builds the plane that will fly the farthest is the winner. Also, everyone should decorate their planes so the judge knows which plane belongs to which team.

Play dare Jenga

For this activity, you need a Jenga set, preferably the one that has extra large blocks. The good side of this activity is that it’s simple to set up and allows players to really test their limits. Each block should have a dare written on it (you can write it on a piece of paper and tape it to each block). Don’t go wild with dares, though – 15 pushups/squats, singing “Baby Shark”, and wearing an ugly sweater or a hat for the rest of the day are funny and mild enough for everyone to accept and enjoy doing them. Make sure each block has a dare, tack them up just like in Jenga, and invite everyone to come and play. Another great thing is that this can easily be done as a relaxing Friday activity and doesn’t require much preparation.

Organize a bike ride

There are only a few things that are more fun than leaving the city and going exploring for a day, so why not use this activity to bring your team closer together? You don’t have to spend a fortune and organize a sightseeing tour of another city – all you need are bikes and a bit of planning. There are probably many interesting places to see around the city, and when you do a bit of research, pick a spot you would like to take your team to. Invite everyone on a biking tour, and see how well they are all getting along outside the office. You can find great Bikes Online if you know that some of the employees don’t have their own bikes, and make sure everyone brings their sunglasses and water bottles. Once you get to the place, throw a picnic and play board games, or just allow everyone to relax and explore the environment.

Do a ‘Zombie escape’

For this activity, you’re going to need a bit more room, a rope, one key, and a stack of clues (you can use anything between 5 and 1, depending on how much time you’re planning to have the team spend on this activity). Before the game start, have one team member volunteer to play the zombie, and encourage them to go all in: arms outstretched, screeching “braaaiiins,” and stumbling around. Invite everyone to an empty room, turn around and dramatically “lock” the door, and after that point out to the “zombie” who is tied in the corner of the room. Even though they are tied, the zombie should have a foot of leeway, and every five minutes they get another foot of rope. In the meantime, the team has to work together to solve the puzzles and find the hidden key so they can leave the room before they get “eaten”.

Take them on a paintball field

No matter how well the team gets along, sometimes the stress of everyday office life and deadlines gets to you. If people are feeling frustrated and overworked, it might be a good idea to take them outside and engage them in an interesting and uncommon activity. Paintball is considered one of the best team building activities because it allows everyone to engage all of their senses and handle all of their frustrations and stress in a healthy way. Divide the people properly: bosses and CEOs shouldn’t be in the same team, but they should stand with their employees. People will love having an ‘excuse’ to shoot their superiors, they will develop their communication and will work much better in a team. In the end, you will have a group of exhausted and happy people who have spent the day outside, shooting others with paintball guns, and having fun.

Walking on eggshells

For this exercise, you are going to have to buy a carton of eggs, and find some simple construction materials such as plastic wrap, straws, rubber bands, balloons, newspaper, some tape, etc. Also, for this exercise, you need to find a place that you won’t mind getting messy (think about parking lots, these are always a good idea because nobody would mind). Divide the entire group into several smaller teams, had them the materials and an egg, and give them about half an hour to come up with a solution that will help protect the egg. They can construct a box, a bag, a carrier, or any other thing they think that will protect the egg. The task is to drop the egg from a certain height (choose the height before you start) and not break it. If you happen to end up with a tie, you can increase the height a bit until there is only one winner. Alternatively, you can boil the eggs first and have the competition inside.

Minefield

If you have an ambitious team on your hands, you can try having them go through a “minefield”. Fortunately, you don’t need much preparation, just an empty room (or even an empty hallway) and some common office items (boxes, desks, shelves, trash cans, fruit bowls, etc). Use these office items to create a set of obstacles (set the mines, so to speak). Group should not be divided into teams but into pairs, and one of the partners should wear a blindfold. The other person is the ‘responsible’ one and they should guide the blindfolded person through the ‘minefield’ without having them bump into or step onto any obstacle. The trick is that the person who is supposed to guide is not allowed to set foot onto the field, but has to only use their voice to help the other navigate. You can start off slowly ad then make it progressively difficult. In the end, the pairs will learn to listen more carefully and give clearer and simpler instructions.

Spider web, spider web…

If you’d like to test everyone’s agility and flexibility, have them play the “spider web” game .for this, you will need to tape a couple of pieces of string across a doorway at different heights. One should be placed at approximately three-and-a-half feet while the other should be put a bit higher, at about five feet. Explain the rules: each string is a dangerous and highly poisonous spider web that melts the flesh of everyone that touches it (or something equally dramatic). Divide the people into two (or more) teams and instruct them to help each other go through the opening without touching the strings. After everyone is on the other side, tape more pieces of string, and make it more difficult.

Online karaoke party

Even if all of your company’s employees are working remotely because of corona virus, there are still some funny games you can play online to help bring them all closer together. Throw an online karaoke party for everyone! You don’t need much – you don’t have to book a place, bring the machine, and negotiate the price of drinks. Everyone should just stay at home and use their computers to try and be the best karaoke singers in the company. If you’d like to take it to the next level, make it into a competition: hand out points, make up rules, and compare everyone’s high scores to find winners.

Whose office?

Another useful icebreaking game you can play remotely is the “Whose office is it?” Everyone should send you several photos of their home office beforehand, and you can use any file sharing tool to show them to the rest of the team. You can spice it up and ask about specific coffee mugs, plants, cushions, and wall décor too. You can send one photo by one or you can send them all at once, mark them with numbers or symbols, and have people guess whose photos is whose. If you want to take it to the next level, try having everyone guess whose desktop background is it, or even compare the views of the office window.

If you’re hoping to have a team that’s going to be successful, work well together, and be incredibly effective, you really have to make sure that your team-building skills are on point. Activities that are meant to bring your team together are many, and just because something sounds great on paper, doesn’t mean it will work in real life. Get to know your team a bit better before you suggest any activities, it will save you a lot of trouble (and some money too). In the end, if you do it right, you’ll help your team connect and function a lot better, resulting in a better workplace dynamic.

How To Ensure Your Employees Are Treated Equally and Fairly

 

 

We often hear a lot about the importance of equality in the workplace. Equal treatment, equal pay, equal opportunities for advancement are all vital to the continued success of not just an employee, but for a business as a whole. However, many employees are also looking to be treated fairly, opening up the discussion of equality in the workplace even further. While fairness and equality might appear to be the same thing, they’re distinctively different and it’s important that companies strive for both at every level of their organization.

 

As managers, leaders, and HR staff, this means employees are expecting you to make the workplace environment one where the office policies are clearly stated and applied equally and fairly across the board. They also expect changes to be made if an individual or group is being treated unfairly. This is especially important as the world has finally started being more aware of what Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)  are forced to deal with at their place of work on a day to day basis.

 

So, how can companies and leaders ensure that their policies are not only providing opportunities for equality, but also fairness?

Equality Isn’t Always Fair

Equality is not always the same as fairness. Equality, while important, can leave out factors that contribute to an employee’s role within the company. Being fair involves considering all of the circumstances and making appropriate decisions based on those circumstances. Employees’ needs differ depending on their circumstances and equality can often leave out specific needs. Equality is like supplying every employee a work laptop, fairness is giving a visually-impaired employee a laptop with braille.

Always Be Prepared for Change

Every employee, wherever they work, wants to be shown by their employer that they’re valuable, their opinions and ideas matter and that they have equal opportunities for professional development and growth. This means that issues such as favoritism in the workplace can wreak havoc on employee morale and can breed resentment toward the company which is another reason why it’s important to treat all employees fairly in the workplace

 

It’s not only important to have policies that promote fairness and equality regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, and age, but it’s imperative to enforce those policies equally too. Taking a look at current policies and identifying where improvement is needed is one way to make favoritism less likely to occur. Are there any rules that favor a particular group of employees over the other? Are all employees aware of the company’s rules and policies, including disciplinary actions? Is there any room for questions or different interpretations within the company’s handbook? It’s also necessary to look at who is being hired and who is most affected by injury, job loss, and discrimination within the company. 

 

Being a fair manager means that “When you treat your employees fairly they focus on navigating the challenges in front of them. They feel respected, cared for, and they develop trust in you as a manager. Instead of focusing on gamesmanship or one-upmanship, employees focus on working towards individual and group goals.” When employees are respected and treated fairly, the whole company is often able to operate as a cohesive team with equal responsibilities and better communication. Moreover, fairness and equality not only contributes to better meeting these needs but can also protect vulnerable groups from getting injured on the job. 

 

While certain fields of work are more labor-intensive and thus have more opportunities for severe injuries to occur, it isn’t just the kind of work that is harmful. Oftentimes, there is an unequal amount of pressure to work in unsafe conditions, especially for Hispanic workers and other minorities. When the work environment and policies are centered around equality and fairness, employees are not only likely to be more productive and have higher morale but it can help protect workers from injury. 

Fairness Benefits Everyone

Working towards maintaining a fair and equal work environment is also vital to a business’s clients. Cultural diversity in the workplace not only benefits the company and its employees, but it could potentially save lives. For example, while discussing the dangers of a lack of representation, particularly in healthcare, some professionals explain that “A lack of cultural diversity in healthcare can lead to many problems, including stereotyping and unequal patient treatment — particularly in cases where cultural differences in healthcare expectations lead to poor patient outcomes. Indeed, negative results are arguably inevitable when there is an underrepresentation of cultural and ethnic diversity in leadership and throughout training.” 

 

Cultural diversity can be hard to achieve when a manager is constantly undermining, discriminating against, or holding BIPOC to a different standard than the other employees. A business is likely to have a higher turnover rate if its employees believe they are being treated unfairly. This can also lead to new talent avoiding the company for fear of discrimination. Businesses with such a lack of diversity are likely to suffer losses financially and, in certain fields such as healthcare, could be putting their clients at risk.  

 

One way to ensure that employees are treated fairly is ingraining that importance into the company culture. Make it something so valuable that the company, managers, leaders, and employees are always striving for fairness and equality. This will make the work environment a more welcoming place to report and discuss areas of discrimination or unequal treatment. It will also encourage employees to voice their opinions more to help further improve policies and practices. 

 

It’s never too late to start enacting change that will help ensure employees are being treated both equally and fairly. Having an open, ongoing dialogue on how to improve company policies and how leadership can deliver said policies appropriately can help businesses stay committed to being a welcoming, equal, and fair place for everyone.  

2020 The Year of Remote Work

It is only June, and thanks to COVID-19, people have declared 2020 as the year of remote work. While telecommuting seemed beyond reach in most industries only a few months ago, this year it has become a necessity. The pandemic has forced employers to come up with novel and successful ways to keep their businesses afloat. For this reason, many companies have asked their employees to work from home. Google has taken the whole matter a step further and advised remote work to its workforce for the rest of the year. Even though some might struggle with this work mode, it is actually quite beneficial for both employers and employees.

Most employees are used to going to work and spending eight or more hours in the office. At first, the sudden change of routine may be strange for them. However, once they recover from the initial shock, they stand to gain quite a lot.  Working from the comfort of their home can considerably boost their productivity and performance. Also, it can have a huge impact on their mental and physical health as well.

The employees no longer have to waste their time commuting. They will be more punctual because traffic jams and parking spaces don’t pose an issue for them in the morning. Once they log on to the selected platform, they are in the workplace ready to reach their daily goals. As a result, travel and accommodation expenses are significantly reduced. If the companies ultimately switch to this work mode, it will bring substantial benefits to the environment too. The reduction of toxic emissions and pollution raises awareness on environmental protection.

What worries employers the most in this situation is employee productivity and performance. There are many distractions at home and most employees are forced to turn their space for relaxation into an office. However, with the right internal communication app, the employers have nothing to worry about. Effective communication is one of the pillars of a successful business. These collaborative business solutions keep everyone well informed and on the same page. Dropbox, Google Hangouts, or Google Drive allows employees to communicate and cooperate on different projects and documents simultaneously. The social aspect of the workplace isn’t neglected as coworkers now use online group chats instead of the good old chatting by the water cooler. Still, for boosting employee performance, everyone has to agree on the preferred communication tool. Forcing tools and channels might cause the opposite effect.

While it seems the pandemic is coming to an end, its consequences are yet to be felt in the months to come. Among good things to come out of this mess is definitely a stronger bond between colleagues. When employees have good work relationships with their coworkers and managers, it positively reflects on the business. Friendship and team spirit largely contribute to creating a healthy work environment. Working under such optimum conditions improves employee productivity and spurs their collaboration. Managers now than ever have to invest time and effort in team building activities and a pleasant work atmosphere. As a result, the employees will maintain their sense of belonging and actively contribute to reaching the corporate aims.

In the long term, remote work may change the whole attitude about work and provide some new perspectives. Millennials are swooping in and along with talent, come with certain expectations about the workplace and work process itself. One of their priorities is having a healthy work-life balance. For this reason, the younger workforce is largely attracted by flexible schedules and working hours. This would enable them to provide for themselves and their families while also pursuing other activities. If the companies want to keep and compete for top talent in the future, they have to make fundamental changes in their management. Allowing the employees to plan their own schedule might prove to be crucial when offering jobs to potential associates. Similarly, instead of being compensated for the hours they spent working, they would like to be rewarded for their accomplishments.

To conclude, due to the unprecedented situation, most companies have started working remotely. Although it seemed quite a challenge, employers have discovered numerous perks of this work mode. Employees are right on time for work and the commuting expenses are significantly reduced. On the other hand, what is boosted are productivity, communication, and collaboration. Through proper communication channels, everyone gets timely updates. As a result, they complete work tasks promptly and without any delays. Besides, remote work enhances work-life balance which is one of the top priorities of the millennials. Their work-related expectations will without a doubt, shape the workplace and the whole work culture in the years to come.

Three strategic technology investments for a successful 2020

HR and benefits technologies are taking center stage in 2020, but what differentiates those that will be successful from those that will fail? How can businesses tell which to invest in versus those that are, at best, pie-in-the-sky concepts that aren’t ready for mass adoption?

 

The trial-and-error approach is no longer enough. If enterprises want to succeed, they’ll need technologies that not only propel organizations forward but can evolve with their growth and ever-changing needs. There will be many to evaluate in the years to come, but there are three that will prove to be especially important in 2020.

 

  1. Control expenses with benefits software

 

Employee benefits account for an enormous part of company expenditures. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, total compensation reached an hourly average of $34.77 for private industry workers. As expected, wages and salaries accounted for the majority of that spend (70.1%), amounting to $24.38 per hour. Benefits were also a significant cost, however, averaging $10.38 per hour (29.9%).

 

With so much money allocated toward benefits, employers can’t simply rely on disparate data streams and legacy systems. In doing so, enterprises will struggle to analyze the data that’s needed to unearth valuable, actionable insights. This is not an isolated problem – our own research shows that 48% of businesses find it difficult to report globally on their workforces. With nearly half of the companies struggling, it’s time to invest in benefits software that offers powerful data analytics capabilities. Only then will they be able to get a closer look at benefits expenditures and rein in these expenses.

 

This is more than a simple cost-cutting measure, however. Enterprises should not be looking to reduce their benefits, which are extremely important in fostering and maintaining employee loyalty. Rather, they should be focused on making smarter decisions, such as reducing waste. One company found that it was paying for 7,000 more health insurance policies than it actually needed. By discovering other unnecessary expenses, employers can save a tremendous amount of money without changing the benefits they offer.

 

  1. Reduce the administrative burden

 

Rewards programs are a great way for any business to show employees that they are valued and appreciated members of the team. But when multiple providers are involved, the administrative burden can multiply. Businesses might find themselves paying for more solutions than are actually necessary.

 

Enterprises should instead rely on one benefits management offering that can deliver an integrated solution. By providing everything that’s needed (corporate broking, benefits advising, employee helpdesk and technology) in a single place, businesses can offer outstanding rewards at a lower cost. This also makes it easier for employees to directly engage with their benefits, creating a more immersive experience between companies and their teams. In a world where engagement is having an increasingly strong impact on employee productivity and retention, this is absolutely essential. And by enlisting in a single solution that serves as the benefits broker, businesses can also negotiate the very best rates from benefits providers.

 

Enterprises can take this one step further by automating the employee benefits administration process. As a result, employees will be able to easily enroll for benefits online, eliminating waste (such as unnecessary paper forms) for the company. It also makes it easier for staff to quickly determine which benefits are available, allowing them to better select those that meet their coverage needs.

 

  1. Make the switch to predictive analytics

 

Prescriptive analytics have been the norm for several years, allowing employers to make smarter and more efficient decisions. Predictive analytics is the next frontier, giving firms the power to model and forecast future macro trends. As workforces age, for example, organizations will see an impact on both benefits expenses and requirements. An influx of newer, younger employees would also require some changes. The same is true as workforces become more global and diverse. In order to remain competitive, employers will need to adjust accordingly with every evolution.

 

These evolutions are not limited to a change in workforce alone, however. Preventative health screenings can also play a role, as well as a change in working practices. A company that implements new safety protocols, for example, could lower the number of accidents and thus reduce absenteeism. Predictive analytics can then be used to better match benefits to all of these changes.

 

Employers must also recognize that while data is invaluable, it should only be obtained after receiving employee consent. The California Consumer Privacy Act is one of the first legislative reminders that employee data is not only useful but very sensitive information. Organizations that wish to use it must earn and maintain the trust of its employees, both in how the data is utilized and how it is stored.

 

The time is now

 

The new year represents an opportunity for enterprises to take charge of their benefits offerings by investing in the right technologies. Whether looking to reduce costs or striving to lower the administrative burden, now is the time to take action. A single benefits management solution can prove to be invaluable in overcoming these and other issues. At the same time, predictive analytics can provide an unprecedented ability to model and forecast future macro trends.

Tips for Reopening Your Business in the Wake of COVID-19

Employee safety in the wake of COVID-19 is more of an issue than ever before. With the concerns of the pandemic atop the economic difficulties of reopening a business or starting a new one, human resources now means giving employees and coworkers the tools to stay safe and maintain social distancing.

 

No matter the challenges, you can create an office space that is safe, sustainable, and functional. All it takes are the right steps and tools to help you open or reopen your workplace post-coronavirus. 

 

Here are five tips for reopening your business safely and successfully:

#1: Write or Rewrite Your Business Plan

Whether you are planning to start a business fresh or are restarting after COVID-19 shutdowns, the pandemic has changed many factors. Reconsider how you’ll conduct business and employee procedures from the ground up. This means reworking your business plan. 

 

A business plan can include everything from long-term goals to the structure of day-to-day procedures. The most important factor involved in the business plan are the financials. From a value proposition to financial projections, the state of the pandemic economy has likely affected your plans. Rework your business plan when starting or restarting a business to set clear and updated expectations for yourself, your employees, or your investors. 

 

#2: Calculate the Costs

 

Successfully restarting a business after the pandemic comes down to a realistic calculation of the costs involved. Take inventory of all expected expenses that come with returning to an office space, potentially onboarding new employees, and restructuring for social distancing.

 

Use a helpful budgeting tool to take inventory and calculate these costs. Mobile apps and digital tools help you keep track of all expenses on the go as you work out a realistic cost analysis.

 

Take advantage of the mobility and flexibility offered by budgeting apps as you consider the costs surrounding reopening maintenance, furnishings, equipment, personnel, and so much more. 

 

#3: Factor in Reopening Procedures

 

With a physical office location, you need to take into account the maintenance procedures that will be required before moving employees back to the office. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list the dangers of a dormant building, citing the risk of mold and Legionella. Prevent problems by taking the proper steps when returning to the office. 

 

Start by developing a plan for water management and ensure that the water heater in your building is functioning properly. Then, flush your water lines with hot and cold water. This is vital in killing Legionella growth and replacing all water in the building’s piping with fresh, clean water. 

 

Follow up with ensuring that all water storage and maintenance systems like cooling towers, sprinkler systems, and eye wash stations are clean and functional. Finally, disinfect all water fountains and features.

 

There are costs associated with these necessary procedures that you’ll need to prepare for and document, but completing them helps guarantee employee safety. 

#4: Redesign Your Space

Your original office layout likely isn’t up to the standards of a post-COVID social distancing world. This means a redesign of your workspace, including areas you might not have considered. Not only should the office layout be managed to maintain a distance of six feet between employees, rooms, and walkways that typically saw more traffic should be adjusted for the new normal.

 

Create indicators in hallways and bathrooms to maintain one-way traffic or individual use so that your coworkers aren’t in close quarters when they don’t have to be. Breakroom furniture and layouts should be adjusted to accommodate fewer individuals at a time. Sanitization stations and equipment should be accessible and neatly organized.

 

A comprehensive redesign will allow the members of your team to keep a safe distance while maintaining functionality but take the opportunity to have fun with your work environment. Consider redecorating with sustainable decor. Add some plants. Integrate color. Create a fun, thriving workplace despite the added anxiety of social distancing rules that will help your employees and coworkers adjust to the new normal. 

#5: Focus on Employee Safety

First and foremost should always be the safety of those working in an office. Consider measures you can implement to enhance employee safety and combat the pandemic. 

 

There are many different strategies you can integrate into your redesigned business plan; here are just a few ideas:

 

  • Contract healthcare professionals to monitor temperatures of those entering the building
  • Educate and be consistent on proper facemask procedures
  • Provide sanitizing equipment and individual office supplies to reduce sharing
  • Limit the number of employees on break and in shared spaces at any given time
  • Allow able employees to work from home
  • Integrate smart solutions for visitor monitoring and employee security

 

Start with your broad business plan and narrow it to specific ways you can maintain employee safety. In the wake of COVID-19, businesses need to implement every policy they can for team member comfort and morale. These are but a few suggestions for a safer future. 

 

By following these strategies to redesign your business before opening or reopening, you will provide your team with a safe office environment with the resources they need to be successful. 

 

Comprehensive Health & Wellness Strategies for the Workplace

Creating a healthy work environment requires more than addressing physical health factors. While workplace benefits such as an onsite exercise facility, ergonomic office furniture, or a cafeteria offering nutritious meals and snacks are always welcome and appreciated by employees, mental wellbeing should also be considered. 

 

A stressful or contentious work environment can lead to employee burnout, lower productivity, and a higher rate of turnover. Creating an environment that promotes mental and physical wellbeing can increase teamwork and cooperation among staff, improving your company’s chances of long-term success. 

 

Consider the following concepts and how they can be applied in your workplace:

More Stress Leads to More Sick Days

It’s widely accepted that prolonged stress can cause illness. A stress-filled work environment promotes a general sense of unease and dissatisfaction that could lead to illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and asthma. 

 

A study found that 93% of business leaders reported that employee health has a significant impact on productivity. Chronic stress in the workplace affects productivity as employees take sick days to seek treatment and recover from their medical ailments. The same study shared that wellness programs reduce employee sick leaves by 25%. 

 

There are many actions your company can take to reduce stress for better health and workplace productivity. As mentioned, employees respond well to health and wellness benefits like healthier food choices in the cafeteria or an on-site gym. If your company doesn’t have space or resources to provide those, consider implementing one or more of the following smaller-scale wellness offerings to improve mental (and physical) health:

 

  • Workplace counseling for employees under pressure.
  • Weekly yoga classes in a conference room or break area.
  • Seasonal flu shots.
  • Gym membership discounts.
  • Group weight loss programs.
  • Break room alternatives to black coffee such as green tea and juices.
  • Stress-management education.

Reduce Conflict by Setting and Enforcing Boundaries

Most employees nowadays use computers to work online. Computers simplify many tasks to save employees time, but they can be a double-edged sword. Employees are at risk of having their personal privacy boundaries violated, leading to anxiety and stress. Some examples could include harassment of their professional presence on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Or their identity or personal details are stolen because of computer viruses or phishing scams.

 

Although we’re talking about the workplace environment, employees often blur the line between personal internet use and work internet use. Employees may log in from work to their online banking page to confirm they’ve been paid. Or use their own email address to send and receive work-related emails. Therefore cybersecurity in the workplace is not only critical to safeguarding your company’s data but the privacy details of your employees as well.

 

Besides viruses and malware that spy on your staff’s computer activities and could compromise your network, social engineering attacks are on the rise. Phishing is the most common, where a fraudster impersonates a well-known company to build trust and steal information from an individual. An example of phishing involves an email from your bank warning you of a security breach and asking you to click on the link to verify your identity. The webpage looks like your bank’s website but asks for personal information such as your account number, login, home address, and other information. Upon closer inspection, you may notice the email and website were fake copies of an authentic company.

 

To protect your company and employees from cyber privacy issues and attacks, make sure all computers and email programs are running comprehensive, up-to-date antivirus software. Consider implementing an online fraud awareness program to train all staff on online dangers and how they can protect their private information, as well as the company’s.

Improving Employee Relations and Teamwork Enhances Wellbeing

Any conflict between management and/or coworkers can create palpable tension. Implementing activities that improve employee relations and encourage collaboration could enhance the overall sense of workplace wellbeing while boosting productivity. When staff feel united and working towards a common goal, problem-solving, and finding creative solutions and methods towards goals is much easier. The following three ideas may help bring your team closer together:

1. Organize Regular Informal Social Events Where Staff can Get to Know Each Other

Mixers, dinner nights, or team-building activities such as a weekend sport can break the ice between employees and allow them the opportunity to get to know each other away from the workplace. They may better connect as they discuss their shared challenges at work, leading to more understanding.

2. Train Leadership to not Micromanage

One of the biggest company challenges to solve is a culture of micro-management. Some people naturally feel the need to control. But the behavior can be detrimental in a work environment. The issue is complex and may require outside help from a consultant so that executives and support staff can better work together.

3. Use Project Management Tools

To enhance collaboration, consider implementing a project management tool. They can provide transparency so that the whole team is up to date on what’s happening in a project. Deadlines and tasks can be assigned between members. Idea sharing and polls are a natural part of the process as members can tag each other or leave ideas open for comments and suggestions. Popular project management tools include Basecamp, Asana, and Trello.

Conclusion

Employees are a company’s greatest asset. Providing a healthy work environment and the tools to manage their mental health is worth the investment. The returns are greater than what you invest and include years of commitment to your company and productivity from their efforts. 

Benefits of Transitioning to a Remote Workforce

Remote working has increased greatly in popularity over the last few years. There was a 159% increase in remote workers between 2005-2017, and today 4.3 million people in the U.S. work remotely at least half the time.

 

It may have already been a rising trend, but the coronavirus pandemic has made remote working a reality for millions of employees across the country. Some of those workers may remain in their remote positions while others will eventually go back to a traditional working environment. Either way, it can be more challenging for some to work from home than others. 


As a business owner, it’s important to understand some of the pros and cons of remote work from the standpoint of your employees, as well as how it will impact your success. So, how can you help your employees transition to a remote workforce, and how can you keep both motivation and morale high even in uncertain times, when you’re not able to directly connect? 

The Pros and Cons of Remote Working

Remote working has many benefits for both businesses and workers. Though you might think your employees would be less productive at home, research has shown that 77% of employees are actually more productive when they’re working remotely. As an employer, some of the biggest benefits your business can gain from letting your employees work from home include: 

 

  • Increased retention
  • Less interpersonal conflict
  • More transparency
  • A lesser need for a large physical space
  • Attract better talent

 

For employees, the benefits include flexibility, freedom, and a customizable space to get work done. 

 

Many people benefit from working remotely because it helps to reduce their stress levels. Employees that are unhappy or stressed are less likely to be productive. Yet, 25% of workers cite their job as their number one source of stress. By allowing employees to work remotely, you’re showing that you’re invested in their long-term health and care about their mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Encouraging a Work-Life Balance

Speaking of mental health, one of the biggest challenges for remote workers is finding a work-life balance at home. It’s far too easy for someone to wake up whenever they want, shuffle to the couch, grab their computer, and try to “work” while watching television. While that might sound relaxing, it isn’t exactly productive or effective. 

 

A stable work-life balance is just as important for remote workers as it is for anyone who works in an office. 

 

One of the best ways to encourage a better balance is to have a separate office space or workspace from the rest of the home. The beauty of being able to do that is that employees who work from home can set up their office spaces in such a way that boosts their own creativity and productivity. Family members within the home should know that designated space is off-limits and distractions need to be limited throughout the day to keep work from bleeding into their personal lives. 

 

If you’re trying to make the transition to working at home, yourself, another great solution is to keep a normal routine. Wake up with an alarm and go over the same routine you would if you had to go into an office. Set normal working hours through the day, give yourself breaks, and “quit” working at a certain time each day. It’s easy to get distracted at home, so limit those distractions as much as possible by unplugging from unnecessary devices and keeping yourself as focused as possible. 

How Can Businesses Benefit?

There are a few challenges your business may face in utilizing more remote workers, including: 

 

  • Communication
  • Performance tracking
  • Security

 

Thankfully, technology has stepped in to combat most of these issues. For example, Zoom has added over 2 million users so far this year, largely due to more people working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. But programs like Zoom and Slack are making it easier for employees and employers to connect on a regular basis without having to get together in person. 

 

In many businesses, the pros tend to outweigh the cons when it comes to encouraging remote work. Not only will your company cut down on costs, but companies who allow employees to work remotely have a 25% lower turnover rate than those that don’t. You’ll attract new employees, retain your best ones, and boost productivity all at once. 

 

If your business hasn’t yet jumped on board with the idea of remote working, this might be the perfect time to see just how impactful it can be and how both your business and your employees might benefit from making such a transition. It can take some time for everyone to get used to, but knowing how to make the change fluidly and efficiently can improve your employees’ mental health and boost your business all at once. 

 

Supporting Diversity & Inclusion Through Benefits

By Chris Bruce, MD and co-founder, Thomsons Online Benefits

 

Last year, 800+ executives in the U.S. pledged to make elevating diversity and inclusion a workplace priority. This work is crucial, especially in Silicon Valley where half of startups still do not have any women in their leadership teams. Attracting and retaining diverse talent can be challenging, but it’s imperative that HR teams use all resources available to them in this effort, and that processes are in place to ensure female talent is nurtured, developed and has equal opportunity to progress in the organization.

 

Employee benefits can play a critical role in ensuring everyone feels included and cared for. Here’s how, from data analytics to benefits personalization, companies can use technology and benefits programs to create an employee benefits proposition that appeals to all.

 

Personalizing through wellness pots

 

Instead of using a one-size-fits-all solution that may only serve the needs of a limited number of employees, wellness pots can serve differing interests and needs. Companies offering wellness pots to support employees’ mental and physical wellbeing are automatically ahead of the curve. These employees are able to spend their wellness pot contribution on the benefits offerings that best support their diverse interests and needs. For example, one employee might take personal training, another could join a mindfulness program and a third take up drumming lessons. Not only do people feel better supported, but they have even more reason to regularly engage with their benefits which can lead to them using and valuing them more.

 

Employing data and analytics

 

To help companies make better decisions to support D&I, those that use pulse surveys to gather feedback from employees should begin segmenting the data by gender, generation, ethnicity, geography, and any other relevant subsection within the company. Not only does this give HR the opportunity to be proactive, but by only looking at total numbers there is a risk of missing  opportunities to identify and fix issues for specific groups.

 

Additionally, there’s a wide range of data available to employers from benefits software that many are not taking advantage of. For example, our research showed that only 48% of organizations measure benefit take up levels and 46% measure employee wellbeing. Companies are however beginning to understand just how important data and analytics are. Over a quarter of respondents are intending to begin collecting this information on benefits take-up and program engagement this yea. Combining the qualitative data from surveys with the quantitative data that can be derived from benefits technology, can create a powerful tool for HR and benefits teams.

 

Increasing flexibility

 

Another way to support all employees is by offering ‘floating’ PTO days to accommodate all employees’ civic or cultural preferences. For example, employees could choose to switch out their Presidents Day holiday for Election Day. What’s more, employers can also give the option to work remotely when needed to accommodate employee needs if something of importance to an individual worker, like an Ash Wednesday service, won’t take the entire day.

 

What’s more, those who work from home have been shown to be more productive, working an additional 1.4 more days per month, although it will be seen in the coming months how productivity is impacted under the new circumstances of working from home due to COVID-19. This is a win-win for both employees and employers and should alleviate any fears around productivity and flexible working. Beyond that, there can be additional long-term payoffs for companies that are sure to be inclusive: our research found that 80% of HR decision makers believe that flexible working arrangements are important when considering talent retention.

 

The bottom line

 

Research has found that 85% of candidates ask about benefits at some point in the interview process so as a key talent attraction tool they must be strategically planned if they are to effectively support D&I right from the start of the employee journey. With this in mind, employers must make their benefits more relevant, easier to access and more engaging in order to meet the needs of an increasingly demanding and diverse workforce. Only then will every employee – of any age, from any location, of any background or culture – be able to get the most out of their benefits and really feel their value.

 

 

 

How To Ensure You’re Providing Employees With a Healthy and Safe Workspace

It may come as somewhat of a shock to most of us, but workplace safety is actually a pretty substantial issue in the United States. For a developed country, we have a lot of preventable accidents happen — nearly 7 million workplace injuries per year! This number certainly doesn’t include all of the times employees feel like they have to take unnecessary risks to get a job done or fail to report relatively minor injuries and close calls. 

Obviously, as a manager, one of the most important things you can do is take steps to ensure your employees are working in a safe and healthy work environment. Where there are inherent risks, it is your duty to educate employees and put forth an effort to mitigate them as much as possible. Beyond just physical health, this also means providing a safe place mentally and socially as well. 

 

Especially in the era of COVID-19, taking the time to assess risks and make calculated efforts to limit health disasters is of the utmost importance. The challenges may be different, but ultimately the responsibility is the same. 

 

Here are some things you can do as a manager to help ensure a safe and healthy work environment for all of your employees. 

Encourage a Culture of Safety

It isn’t always easy to encourage employees to take workplace safety seriously, If your company has been fortunate enough to have avoided injuries for quite some time, it can be easy to become complacent. In these situations, one of the best things you as a manager can do is lead by example. Take safety seriously and do your best to encourage others to do so as well. 

 

Education and constant reminders are some of the best tools for building an atmosphere of safety. Take steps to ensure that all employees are properly trained and have received the appropriate equipment to complete their jobs prior to them starting work. In addition, put signage and other forms of visual reminders where people will see them regularly. 

 

Some of the most common workplace injuries come from tasks that employees do nearly every day without an issue. It can be in the form of an object falling on them, repetitive motion injuries, strains, overexertion, or overexposure to loud noises. As a manager, encourage employees to take the time they need to do the job effectively and safely without rushing. Frequent breaks to rest and stretch can also help. 

Promote Personal Health

No matter what you think is going on in one of your employee’s lives, chances are you don’t really know or understand the whole story. Employees could be dealing with all sorts of hidden issues or unseen disabilities that make work more challenging than it should be. Although personal issues really shouldn’t be allowed to impact work performance, we’re all human and occasionally things leak over on accident. 

 

As a manager, strive to help employees promote their own personal health in any way that you can. For instance, make sure you are ADA compliant and capable of supporting all employees no matter the situation. 

 

Likewise, encourage employees to do small things that will benefit their health in the long-term. For instance, taking regular work breaks and going on walks can relieve stress and help tense muscles relax. If possible, work towards offering wellness programs and health-related perks to employees such as gym membership discounts or free yoga classes once or twice a week during lunch. 

Create a Friendly Atmosphere

The atmosphere of your workplace is a commonly undervalued factor when assessing the health and safety of a workplace. It may not seem obvious, but a negative company culture or a few tasteless or rude employees can completely change the tone of an office space. This can lead to decreases in employee satisfaction and productivity as well as increase feelings of stress and anxiety in the workplace — neither of which should be present in an employee truly feels safe. 

 

One of the big things you can do as a manager is spot problems early and work towards addressing them before they blow up. Encourage the use of inclusive language in the workplace — this can help employees feel less alienated by coworkers with different values and more part of a larger team. If disagreements do arise, work through them as a neutral character and try to address them with empathy and compassion. 

 

The role of employers is changing when it comes to workplace safety. Twenty or thirty years ago safety may have only included physical health; now it includes not only physical health, but mental health, inclusion, protection from harassment, and cybersecurity. As a manager, this means there is a lot on your plate when it comes to the health and welfare of your employees. 

 

***

 

Workplace safety is a serious issue in many workplaces. Managers must work to encourage an atmosphere of both physical safety, equality, and inclusiveness in the workplace. It isn’t always an easy task, but it can be a rewarding one at the end of the day.